One of my favorite sources of information for small business technology is SMB Group. Laurie McCabe’s recent post about business intelligence and small business was right on point. As compared to large enterprises, small and medium sized businesses have greater challenges when it comes to pulling business insight out of data that is in their disparate and unconnected applications. In addition, according to the SMB Group study, many small business owners feel like business intelligence solutions are too complex and too expensive. Unfortunately, missing on the insights and opportunities analytics can provide may end up more expensive in the long run.
I especially like the part in her post where Laurie McCabe lists “symptoms” of data analysis problems. How many of these does your company suffer from?
About a year ago I wrote a post about some cloud-based analytics tools for small businesses. I still think these tools are viable alternatives but for many small businesses they are still too expensive – small businesses look at them and fall back on the tried and true Excel spreadsheet. Recently I’ve run across some less expensive tools that have connectors to applications that small businesses use like Highrise, Batchbook, Freshbooks, etc. These include Easy-Insight and EazyBI. Both can pull data from some cloud applications (though both could use more connectors in my opinion), from in house databases like MS Access or SQLServer, or from Excel spreadsheets. Once the data is in one place it is much easier to see a complete picture of your business. In addition, these tools can fill in important gaps in these applications.
Is it magic? No, you have to understand data and how it connects to get truly good insights. Some folks have a knack for this and do it every day in Excel – these tools just make it easier. Others may need outside help. Either way, these tools bear watching. I would expect more tools to enter this market as well, making now the time for small businesses to take their data seriously.